tv The Communicators CSPAN May 6, 2013 8:00am-8:31am EDT
booktv, 48 hours of programming beginning saturday morning at eight eastern through monday morning at eight eastern. .. >> two years after the revolution that led to the resignation of president hosni mubarak. >> lawmakers return to washington after a a weeklong recess today. the senate plans to complete work on the internet sales tax bill. they'll also vote on advancing a bill authorizing the army corps of engineers to work on flood
protection and water supply projects. in the house, members will consider a handful of suspension bills. on wednesday they'll host a joint meeting of congress to hear an address by the president of south korea. also on the agenda, a bill allowing employers to grant comp time instead of overtime to hourly workers and a bill to prioritize debt payments in an event that the debt ceiling is reached. live coverage of the house on c-span, the senate here on c-span2. >> host: president obama has nominated tom wheeler to be the next chair of the federal communications commission. that's our topic this week on "the communicators." tom wheeler is currently managing director of core capital partners which is his venture capital firm. he has served on the obama-biden transition team, and he's been the ceo of two industry groups based here in washington; the cable association and the wireless association as well. joining us to discuss this,
justin lilley, telemedia policy corporation, and he is a former republican counsel to the house energy and commerce committee, and blair levin with the aspen institute who also as served several stints at the fcc. blair levin, if we could start with you. do you know tom wheeler, and what should people who follow these issues know about tom wheeler? >> guest: i do know tom wheeler. pretty much everyone who's been in this business knows tom wheeler. he was a very successful head of a trade association and a very successful investor both between the trade association stints and after he left the wireless industry. um, the two things that i would say that people should understand is he has a breadth of experience on both the policy side and the investment side that i think is extremely valuable. and the second thing i think is una overlooked -- often overlooked is he's actually managed some large organizations. and i think coming into the fcc,
part of the job is to manage 2,000 people to work together to more effectively develop policy, implement policy, analyze things. and i think he'll be very good at that, and i think that's a real tribute to him. >> host: justin lilley? >> guest: i know tom a little bit as well. i don't know him as well as blair. when i was counsel on the house commerce committee, he was at that time the head of ctia. i would agree with blair on everything. he's a very, very sharp guy. you know, one saying that comes to mind, tom knows where the bodies are buried in terms of getting an agenda done, getting things through the commission which can be complicated. the commission is the place where a lot of different interests intersect, and particularly as congress finds it increasingly hard to legislate in this area, a lot of power has gravitated to the commission. so it makes it very complicated. there are a lot of land mines. and tom is the kind of guy, it strikes me, he's going to know what he wants to do, and he's going to know how to get it
done. >> host: as a republican, are you supportive of this nomination? >> guest: whether i support it or not doesn't matter. i think tom is clearly qualified for this job. he's earned the trust of the president. he's clearly earned the trust of a lot of other groups and other individuals in this town. i don't think there's any doubt about that though. he's qualified. he's got some big challenges ahead of him. i think probably one to to have the most complicated things the commission will deal with in a long time, and i think blair will probably agree, are the upcoming broadcast television incentive auctions. and i think when we get into 2017 and away look back on tom's tenure, assuming it's probably one term of a presidency, i think whether it's judged a success or failure will probably be determined by whether or not those auctions are a success or failure. they're very complicated. they're going to be very complicated. there's a lot of land mines, there's a lot of different, very thorny issues to figure out. and, you know, tom's clearly got the skills, the relationships
and the know how to get that done, but it is a monumental challenge probably equivalent to that which blair and his former boss faced back at the commission when they implemented not just the '92 cable act, but the '96 telecommage. there's a lot of different interests that are going to want to see how does this play out. you have the public safety community, you have congress which is very dependent and very interested to make sure those auctions go well from a deficit reduction standpoint, you have broadcasters who are very interested because it's their spectrum that's at issue, and you have the wireless commitment which is very interested because of their needs for more spectrum for mobile broadband. >> host: well, joining us to look at some of the issues that the fcc will be facing is paul kirby, senior editor of "telecommunications reports." >> thanks. let me give -- get blair's reactions on the fcc auctions. hold the auctions next year.
>> guest: yes. >> is that realistic? we just heard there are a lot of issues still to be decided, and some of the key leaders who are working that procedure could leave with the change in chairmanship. >> guest: that's correct. if we were betting, i'd say the action's going to be in 2015. but having kind of helped manage that agency, i think it's good to hold people's feet to the fire, to have a calendar. if it changes because there are issues that come up, so be it, but if you plan on it being in 2015, it'll be in 2016. i think, by the way, they have a terrific staff, great expertise being applied to this auction. i certainly agree with justin, though, i think this is an issue where if the auction fails, it's going to be difficult for the wheeler chairmanship to be seen as a success. if it's a success, it doesn't mean that the chairmanship will be a success because there are other things that can intervene, but it's kind of compulsory event he needs to do well in.
>> justin, is 2015 realistic? >> guest: you know, i don't know. i think what the current chairman did was smart, he put that marker out there to force people to begin to focus on it. and my guess is that's what they were thinking in doing that. i think it is a challenge, though, to get this done in 2014. as i was saying to peter, there are so many complexities to this thing, so many issues they have to figure out before the auction just setting up the rules. and then there's the whole issue which is the big exogenous factor which is what's going to be the nature of the economy, because that's going to be one of the issues, the wireless community, which is going to have to raid the money to -- raise the money to bid at auction. that's one of the big unnopes, and that's an issue the commission cannot control. so i think 2014 is definitely ambitious. would i rule it out? no. but at the same time i'm not sure i'd bet a lot of money on it. >> now, blair, you were the architect of the national broadband plan that said we should get 120 megahertz from
the incentive auctions. >> guest: yes. >> fcc people no longer talk about a total. i want to get predictions from you two about how much spectrum do you think they'll get from the auction? >> guest: well, again, if we were betting, i'd be kind of in the 80-100. they don't get to do this or very often, and i think that every bit of spectrum that goes into the wireless broadband is, you know, is an accelerator of economic growth, job growth, efficiency and a lot of other things because we are going to be live anything a bandwidth-delivered economy. having said that, however, there are lots of different things, and justin has mentioned some, there are a lot of other potential changes in the broadcast industry that could affect it. so you've got, you have to have an aspiration. i think 120 was the right one. if they don't meet that, that doesn't mean it wasn't a success. what is a success, and what i think is really interesting is that before we came up with this idea and the plan, there was no idea about how we get more
spectrum into the marketplace. so i think it's a really important thing that the commission is doing. >> prediction? >> guest: i would agree. i think it's an important aspiration, but i think it's going to be very complicated. one, you've got some border issues, some international issues which could have the effect of taking some off the top from 120 megahertz because of the neighboring stations and canada and mexico. i think, two, like you can't -- the commission can't control what the nature of the economy's going to be and, therefore, dictating the willingness of the wireless industry to participate in the auction, the commission also can't dictate the broadcasters' willingness to participate in this auction. remember, this is a voluntary auction from their standpoint. it won't be voluntary how they're repacked after the auction, but whether or not they want to participate in part or in full is voluntary. and that's going to be a very hard thing for the commission to control. i hear different things from different people. i hear they think they're going to get -- even if they don't get 120, they'll get enough to have a robust auction.
i think there are a couple things that go into that. i think some of the smaller group owners may be more willing to participate. i think also the noncommercial stations could help drive a higher yield of spectrum. but, again, you know, it's an unknown, and i think it's one of the big unknowns that tom's going to face going forward. >> couple key issues in the auction is do you limit the eligibility of verizon, a, at&t, and that's part of a separate proceeding, and license. republicans are concerned they feel the fcc will violate the spectrum act by using that for unlicensed spectrum that would not be auctioned. blair, fist, i wanted to get your, i guess, your quick views on those two. >> guest: well, i think you've identified the two most potent political issues. there are a lot of technical issue, but those are the two ones that you'll read the most about. as to the first, there has always been a tradition that there are limitations on what any single buyer can buy in an
auction, and i expect the commission to do that again. whether at&t and verizon think those are the right rules, i think it would be a mistake, and i think most of the experts think it would be a mistake to have an auction which an a, at&r a verizon can buy everything. but how you do that, i think there'll be a lot of debate about. as to be unlicensed, again, the law allows and, indeed, seems to me in some ways to require the fcc to do some level of unlicense. i'm quite certain they will not violate the law, but i think what we've seen with the growth of wi-fi is that unlicense provides a tremendous economic value in terms of its utilization of spectrum, and i suspect the commission will do something to utilize this opportunity to repack, to create new opportunities for the unlicensed type of approach. >> host: justin? >> guest: i think that's right. i think these are the two most thorny political issues in advance of sort of the technical issues of how to structure the
auction. and i think this is, i think one thing that's interesting if i'm tom wheeler and i'm sitting there thinking as i go into this, into my tenure here we're in the second term of an administration, and you -- he's also confronting a situation where one of the chambers of congress is in control of the opposite party, the house being controlled by the republicans. this tends to be, also, the period where people start to get very ornery. the hill gets very ornery with the agencies. and i think these are two issues in which republicans on the hill have already signaled to the obama f creditcc that they havey strong views on this. and as best we can tell, you never know what happens, but most analysts think the republicans will probably hold on to the house through the next midterm elections, so tom is going into an environment where he's got the republicans in addition to maybe the issue of net neutrality, these two issues they feel very, very strongly about. and these are the kind of things where you can clash. if you clash on these policy
matters, congress can make your life very, very difficult in other ways. how are these issues going to shake out? i don't know. but i think tom is going to find that he spends a lot of time on these two issues in particular precisely because congressional republicans feel very strongly about them. >> guest: yeah. so i would say if tom were sitting here, the republicans are going to try to make his life miserable no matter what. now, i have to say, i think tom is one of the most gifted people dealing with the hill that i've ever met, so i think he will effectively do it. but i certainly wouldn't approach that by saying i'm going to appease these folks, because you actually ability. i think tom -- i hope he doesn't take this as an insult, he will be maybe one of the oldest people to become chair. i think he's doing this because he wants to serve the public, and i think he's looking to history and what's going to create a robust, competitive, vibrant marketplace more than what's going to please
republicans. >> host: gentlemen, stop the gap, a consumer industry group, has come out against tom wheeler's nomination. get your reaction. our view remains the country and the obama administration could do far better than choosing someone to lead the fcc that has not made a career lobbying for big cable and phone companies. the most likely outcome of a wheeler nomination is that he will be quickly approved, maintain the agency's relatively low profile and avoid rocking the boat too much. even he doubts the power of the fcc to regulate, to affect regulatory change unless those regulated volunteer to submit to more regulation. the industry remains in the driving seat. >> guest: well, that's interesting. hearing about and reading about tom's nomination the last couple days, i read a piece he recently wrote -- not recently, during the pend si of the at&t -- t-mobile deal, he
might be inclined, i think, to approve the merger but with a fair number of behavioral conditions that would, in his view, limit the reach and the dominance of at&t. i don't know what this group would think, i've not heard of this group. i don't know what they would think of what tom suggested in there. but that indicates to me that i think that tom, tom probably knows that this is an extremely delicate task and that there's a number of sensitivities that he's going to have to address as the head of the obama fcc. i think he, there's no question that tom's experience in this area gives him the ability to sort of work with these groups probably in ways in which someone who doesn't have the same background. but i don't, i'm not so sure where tom would necessarily end up on a lot of these detailed regulatory issues. i think, you know, a lot of people end up surprising people in this town, and, you know, maybe they end up feeling differently at the end of his
tenure, i don't know. >> guest: two things real quick. first of all, as to his experience as a lobbyist, with both industries they were actually the new entrants, and i remember working with tom trying to figure out how can we enable wireless to compete with wired, so he does have a little bit of that sense, and he's been on the board of earthlink which is kind of one of the incumbents, so i think those people will be pleasantly surprised by his openness and his understanding of the need for competition. but the second thing is they do raise an important point which is the agency will face an existential dilemma. you have the open internet order, but you also have kind of what you might think of as the death to have social contract that built the telephone industry and the cable industry. that is to say both of those were fundamentally built on the premise that we give you a monopoly, you serve everybody, we have universal service, we have other requirements. as we move to an all-data world, the economic foundations of those contracts are crumbling. so the auction is probably the single most important thing.
the second most important thing for tom to address or that's kind of on the plate is what's called the transition to ip, and that's kind of like how do we do this. and it's in the backdrop, and justin was alluding to this. there's a court case that will challenge, that is effectively challenging the fcc's ability to regulate at all. so the agency very much has to address this question, and i might also note that every chair about sometimes between 3-6 months in faces a different existential question when they discover two important things. first, everything that got them the job is not what helps them do the job. and the second is why are they really will? where can they really make a difference? where are they simply reflecting the forces that would happen anyway, and where can they personally make a difference? and that's the interesting question about what tom will be grappling with. of but i don't share the same concerns as those folks. >> host: it should be noted that
i-i-schoen of public knowledge has put out a public release, i believe tom will be a proactive chairman who will not allow the fcc to become irrelevant as broadband becomes the dominant mode of communication in this country. tom will have an open door and an open mind even though she has no doubt that public knowledge will disagree with tom wheeler at times. [laughter] next question, topic, paul kirby. >> you mentioned the all-ip transition. how difficult is it going to be for the fcc, for tom to manage some sort of regulatory structure? already, obviously, very early in that argument you have got competitors saying, look, this is just a ruse to say there's no obligation and connection and, basically, they're going to get cut off. any predictions about how he will manage that? >> guest: well, look, i think that, actually, his understanding of the industry and its history and the technology will actually serve him and the commission or very
well. i think it's a very complicated proceeding. the common theme of justin and i is these things actually are very complicated. but having said that, i do think interconnection will be one of the most important issues and how it's addressed. i do think that at the end of it we will serve the country well by making sure that industry knows the date certain at which they no longer have to invest in old networks. but i also think that we have to, you know, strive to make sure that we are, we are continuing a competitive dynamic, we are continuing to serve certain values like making sure we have resilient networks for public safety, and we have to make sure that consumers are frequented. but, look, i think on the high level there's actually a fair amount of agreement. it's where the details come in that you have a lot of disagreement, and tom, i think, will be a fair and open minded manager of that process. if i could say one other thing, i think that as part of that process we also have to continue to drive innovation. and i think one of the great
opportunities for him, and you see this with some things senator rockefeller said and commissioner rosen worth l has talked about how we need to get gigabit connectivity into the classroom, for example. that's clearly the case. 80% of teachers think already the adequacy of bandwidth in the classroom is not there to really take advantage of it. but those are the kinds of things that are also part of the agenda in terms of making sure that we don't just have good bandwidth, but we have the bandwidth which really drives innovation, economic growth, health care, education, etc. >> justin? >> guest: i would agree with blair's point that there's broad consensus that everything should be going all i.t. and that, you know, congress and regulators ought to be doing what they can to facilitate that. i think it's going to take a very long time though, and i don't think the commission will be making, will be compelled to make the kinds of dig decisions that they're going to have to make, for example, some of the
auctions. some of these other owxes that are coming up, transactions that i think are probably coming before the commission. so i think it's a little bit on a little bit of a slower burn. it's important to at&t, they have a commission pending with the commission for some trials, but my guess is tom is probably going to be spending a lot of his time on other issues. i think in addition to broadcast incentive auction, i think there's a decent probability that net neutrality comes back to the commission. the d.c. circuit will probably hear oral argument i think sometime in the fall i think they're expecting. so i think the earliest we get a ruling out of the d.c. circuit the end of this year, maybe the beginning of next year. and if the court were to vacate or remand the rules, that's going to raise a very important question in this town which is partly legal, partly political, and that's going to be does the obama administration appeal them to the supreme court or do they send it back to the commission? tom will have a front row seat
in that decision in conjunction with the department of justice and some input from the white house staff. that's going to be a very sensitive decision. of course, there's always a possibility that the rules are upheld, and, you know, there's less probably to decide at that point, although industry may decide to appeal to the supreme court. but i think the really interesting question will be if the d.c. circuit does throw out the rules, what do they do, and what is tom's role in that and what is the rest of the administration's role in that. >> if it goes back to the commission, does tom try to pursue title ii? >> guest: that's the $64 million question, isn't it? [laughter] it's not clear to me what other avenues they will have left. this will be, i think, virtually the commission will have tried a different source of authority called title i, and i think depending how the court writes it, it would be difficult to try that a third time. >> guest: i think that is the really big question, and i would just note prior to what the commission did last time which was under title i, the general
counsel for the fcc actually published a document which, if i recall correctly, said they effectively have to do title ii. they chose not to, but that was kind of a legal opinion. it didn't reflect kind of the politics that justin was talking about, but i think that's a very, very tricky thing. look, at the end of the day i actually think there's a fair amount of consensus about the kind of internet we want. but once you get below that con enus, there's a lot of different -- consensus, a lot of different points of view in the government role in making sure we achievement and that. >> host: and tom wheeler has maintained a blog over the years. read his writings at mobilemusings.net. by the way, fred upton has put out a statement, we congratulate tom wheeler on his nomination to the fcc, but we are concerned by mr. wheeler's views on merger conditions that can be misused to affect whole industries, not just those seeking merger approval. paul kirby. >> do you think senators will
try to bring that up, the senate republicans? obviously, fred upton and greg walden do not have, do not get involved in the confirmation process. do you think they'll try to bring up the blog postings about at&t and t-mobile? >> guest: i think they will. i think this is like some of the issues we've talked about. this has always been a sore spot, and i think blair and i specifically probably squared off on this issue in our former lives. this is the kind of thing where congressional republicans get very troubled by the idea that the commission is making policy through conditions to mergers. and i think their view is that, look, if you have strongly-held views on this or that issue, then do it through the normal process. do it through a rulemaking. and i think they've gotten very, very worried of late about the increasing tendency for the commission to not only condition a merger, but now what you have on top of that, the more recent phenomenon, is where the party toss a deal will voluntarily make conditions to a deal.
>> and they always say voluntarily with a gun to their head. >> guest: correct. so this has been the tension between congressional republicans and the fcc for, i think, about 10 or 15 years now. you know, because i think a lot of times the commission does have trouble getting these things done through a rulemaking. and, you know, parties are eager to get a deal done. so it's not unusual for the parties to work out their own arrangement with the commission. congressional republicans do not like this. i think congressional democrats have a different view of it. i think their view is this is how you can serve the public interest, so be it. my guess is this will probably come up in the tom's confirmation hearing. >> guest: i believe it'll come up, you know, this is no point to us debating what the right policy is, but justin's exactly right. that is one of the historical tensions, and a lot of conservative republican think tanks have suggested taking merger authority away from the fcc. >> we've talked a lot about tom. between now and when tom, if and when he's confirmed, hun
onclyburn will be active chair. do you have any views on whether she will be activist and try to get items through or be more of a caretaker chair until tom comes in? >> guest: i think she knows the agency very well, she's very familiar with the issues. i think she certainly will continue to do certain things, particularly on the auctions that need to be done in order to kind of meet that time table. there are some oh things that i think she cares about such as prison phone rates that she may decide to be a little more aggressive in moving forward. but i don't want anticipate it'll be that terribly long a period. certainly, there's no kind of pressing need to start proceedings, though there are some that i think she could start that tom would be perfectly happy of to have her start. so she doesn't want to do anything that boxes him in, but i don't think she would do that. but there's already a full agenda. >> host: justin lilley, any inkling on who the president may nominate to replace commissioner
mcdowell? >> guest: you know, that's, that's a pretty good parlor game right now in town. i think by tradition dating back to the clinton-dole years as i think you may know, the leader of the opposition in the senate gets to make a, quote-unquote, suggestion. my guess is senator mcconnell is playing that, he and his staff are playing that pretty close to the vest. i think, you know, probably get a game my guess is in is the next month or to so. tom has not been officially nominated, the president's announced an intention to nominate him, but my guess is his official nomination will be ready fairly soon, and by tradition as well they will pair, the senate will pair the two of them to move them together. and so my guess is that requires senator mcconnell and his staff to sort of the be thinking about who would they like to recommend, and my guess is we'll see a name soon. >> blair, any predictions? >> on the republicans? >> well, there's been several hill people that have been
speculated both in the house and the senate. >> guest: right. well, first of all, what i know about republicans -- >> you just learned right now. >> guest: justin and i have talked about it before. [laughter] it's perfectly consistent with what other republicans have told me as well. in the general, you would give the nod to the senate aide. i would say that ray balm is a very knowledgeable former state puc commissioner, well respected both on the hill and trout the states, but -- throughout the states but, you know, let's put it this way, mitch mcconnell isn't going to call me up. >> host: gentlemen, we've only got a couple of minutes left. is the telecommunications community in washington, is it tight knit? do you all know each other? is it small? how would you describe it? >> guest: incestuous, do you mean? [laughter] i think, yeah, the telecom bar is a fairly, relatively speaking, small crowd.
i think there's a lot of overlap. there's a lot of bipartisanship. you know, this is, you know, chairman buyly used to say to me when we'd sort of sit down and talk about these issues, and i'd get a little sort of wrapped around the axel, and he'd say, justin, don't worry about it, it's just the rich fighting the wealthy and to a surgeon extent, that's -- certain extent, that's true about issue. these issues typically don't lend themselves to sharp partisan differences, although you do see that on some of the high profile issues. but i would say it's a fairly small community by rell thetive standards. >> guest: look, the '96 act was a bipartisan act, and, you know, obviously, we disagreed, but i think the people like justin and i who kind of came out of that and came out of the original spectrum auctions have an enormous amount of respect for each other and have always gotten along well. >> host: is tom wheeler the type of chair that would relish a new
telecommunications act? >> guest: you know, that's a good question. you know, because often tames you -- often times you do need -- you clearly need the buy-in of an administration anytime you're going to do a big reform bill, and tom would clearly be an addition, walk sort of the spokesperson for that and sort of from the administration evangelizing the idea and encouraging congress to do it. you know, my sense is right now the current landscape is that the stars aren't aligned for a major reform bill. there's been talk about reforming the video marketplace. it's been a long time since congress really got its hands, you know, back into the video marketplace. the '92 cable act is now, you know, over 20 years old. so, you know, i think it depends. i think if he, you know, that is one way to sort of leave your mark, is to sort of be seen as sort of central to getting congress to agree on a major reform bill. >> guest: i would just say very quickly, i think tom would be great at it, he would